Skyports and Bicester unveil plans for UK vertiport testbed for air taxi industry

Skyports Infrastructure (Skyports), the leader in vertiport infrastructure for the advanced air mobility (AAM) industry, has signed an agreement to develop a vertiport testbed at Bicester Motion, Oxfordshire, the 444-acre estate dedicated to pioneering mobility technology, past, present and future.

The new vertiport, which will include a compact 160 square m passenger terminal, will be used for testing ground infrastructure and flight operations aimed at enabling the next generation of electric, low noise aviation in the UK.

The vertiport, positioned adjacent to Bicester Motion’s existing general aviation grass runways, is aligned with Bicester Motion’s strategic vision to integrate both traditional and vertical aviation operations from its airfield.

Developed as part of the Advanced Mobility Ecosystem Consortium (AMEC) and backed by Innovate UK’s Future Flight Challenge, the vertiport will serve as a key node for early vertiport network planning and demonstrations, as well as for the Consortium’s wider testing programme and public and stakeholder engagement. This includes Vertical Aerospace, demonstration flights to test key procedures ahead of commercial launch. Skyports aims to open the doors to its UK vertiport by the end of 2024 to align with the AMEC testing programme.

The UK vertiport design, which has been submitted to Cherwell District Council, has drawn inspiration from Skyports’ existing testbeds in Paris and California.

The strategic location of Skyports’ Bicester Motion vertiport, approximately 1 hour 40 drive from central London by road and close to Oxford and the Cotswolds, will demonstrate how air taxi services will provide a vital link between urban centres, regional, tourism and retail hubs. By air taxi, the same journey will take less than 25 minutes.

Duncan Walker, chief executive officer, Skyports, said: “Our vertiport at Bicester Motion is ideally located to serve as a central hub for the UK’s advanced air mobility industry. The facility will be employed by Skyports and our strategic partners to test and refine all aspects of our ground technology and operations within a UK context. This will also be a key location for early demonstration flights in the UK and will help to pave the way for permanent operations in the future.”

Gary Cutts, challenge director – Future Flight, Innovate UK, said: “The UKRI Future Flight Challenge was launched with the objective of accelerating the development and integration of innovative aviation solutions for UK industry and communities. Through flagship projects such as AMEC, we’re ensuring that the UK remains firmly on the map as a leading contributor to the next generation of aviation. Skyports’ vertiport at Bicester Motion is instrumental to this objective. As a hub for researching, testing and demonstrating ground and air operations for the advanced air mobility industry, it will play a significant role in developing a UK vertiport network and implementing commercial air taxi services in the future.”

In October 2022, Skyports launched a “Living Lab” terminal in the USA with aircraft partner Joby Aviation. Also in 2022, Skyports inaugurated its European vertiport testbed with Groupe ADP in France. In February 2024, Skyports, the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority and Joby Aviation penned an agreement to launch commercial air taxi services in Dubai by 2026.

Skyports’ new vertiport at Bicester Motion will include:

  • a compact terminal, constructed on a plot of 0.42 acres (0.17 hectares), to showcase vertiport infrastructure’s efficient nature and highlight the capacity for seamless integration into urban landscapes, where space is at a premium, and facilitate fast passenger throughput.
  • passenger processing facilities which will include access control gates, weight and balance optimisation, and identity validation, verification and screening. The addition of a dedicated passenger lounge will demonstrate a comprehensive customer experience.
  • operations room will be equipped with Skyports’ suite of Vertiport Automation System (VAS) technology, which will feature a bespoke resource management and scheduling module, to enable high throughput aircraft agnostic operations.
  • situational awareness module to provide visualisation tools for comprehensive airspace and vertiport perimeter monitoring. The airside area will comprise a single final approach and take off area and one stand.

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